On a clear winter day in March 2013, 55-year-old Danylo Kulish was on his way to pick up his girlfriend at Montreal’s Trudeau airport in his GM Saturn Ion. He never made it.
Kulish died in a crash in which Transport Canada investigators are probing a faulty ignition switch as the “probable” cause — just six weeks after General Motors issued a recall of millions of cars because of the potentially deadly defect.
The Kulish family says no one told them about the GM recall until after his death.
To date, GM has stated that one of the 29 wrongful death claims it has accepted was a Canadian, but has declined to identify the victim. An investigation by CBC's the fifth estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquete now adds the Kulish crash as a second Canadian fatality under investigation as part of the ignition switch problem.
“A sudden failure within the ignition switch appears to be a possible and probable explanation," says a preliminary Transport Canada report into the crash obtained in the fifth estate and Enquete investigation.
"According to the data retrieved from the car's ACM (airbag control module), the driver's frontal airbag never deployed because the ACM never commanded its deployment."
The September 2014 report by Transport Canada said “further analysis” was needed to determine “if a faulty ignition switch had contributed to this outcome." It described the case as “a high departmental priority."
GM is facing claims of at least 150 more fatalities and hundreds of injuries.
“He died for no reason. He died for a 57-cent piece that should have been fixed over 10 years ago and would’ve cost them hardly anything if they would’ve just done the right thing from day one,” Danylo Kulish’s brother Taras told the fifth estate.
"It was a clear day, there was no snowstorm," says Taras Kulish. "He went straight into the cement pillar that divided the highway.… He just went right in it, full frontal crash."
Danylo Kulish was pronounced dead of massive internal injuries.
Evidence before U.S. Congressional hearings and in GM’s own internal reports reveal the company knew about the defect as far back as 2005 and switched the part in newer models without informing anyone.
The fifth estate and Enquete also reveal that Transport Canada was aware of a potential problem with the ignition switch in the Chevrolet Cobalt eight months before General Motors Canada issued a recall notice.
Under Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act, GM Canada is obliged to disclose a safety defect in a "timely" fashion.
"Timely meaning upon becoming aware,” Kash Ram, the director general of road safety and motor vehicle regulation at Transport Canada, told fifth estate host Bob McKoewn.
“Now it will depend, based on circumstances. In some cases it's days, typically it’s days upon determining, upon becoming aware that there is a safety-related defect."
Asked if GM’s delay in making the defect public for several years was “a timely fashion," Ram said: "They’ve admitted fault, but we have to see. It has to be evidence-based."
“At this point we have no evidence to suggest that GM Canada did not comply with its obligations under Canadian law. But it’s not closed yet," he said. "We continue to scrutinize their actions."
After the crash, a letter addressed to Danylo Kulish from American GM chief executive officer Mary Barra arrived, apologizing for what she called the "inconvenience or frustration" caused by the ignition switch problems.
By then, Kulish had been dead for five months.
“It angers me, because why should we be waiting for anything from the United States?” says his brother Taras.
“I mean, Transport Canada should be its own independent organization and should be able to react accordingly to what’s going on here, and they’re just nowhere to be seen or found."